Heinen Leads Defending Champ at John Deere
The 35-year-old Louisianan fired an 8-under-par 63 to lead Fred Funk, who finished runner-up in last week's B.C. Open, by one. Defending champion David Gossett, Tripp Isenhour and Robert Gamez are all two back after a trio of 65s.
'I kind of felt in control all day,' Heinen said.
Funk was in control as well. He had seven birdies in a bogey-free round, and hit every fairway and green in regulation.
'I really had a shot at birdie on almost every hole, so I played exceptionally well from tee to green and drove the ball really well,' Funk said. 'The golf course is in fabulous shape, so if you hit it well, it's going to reward you.'
This event is noted for producing first-time tour champions. Heinen isnt a novice; he has one victory, but none since 1994. That year he captured the Shell Houston Open.
'It has been so long since I have won, you can kind of call back on those memories, but sometimes there are a few spider webs in the way,' he said.
Heinen has split time between the PGA and Buy.Com tours since turning professional in 1989. This year, he has played seven events on the primary tour and five times on the secondary circuit. Hes fared far better in the junior league.
In limited action, Heninen has a runner-up finish and a third-place finish on the Buy.Com Tour. He lost to Steve Alker in a playoff in the Louisiana Open, despite shooting 61 in the third round.
'I need to be on the PGA Tour, and I feel that way,' he said. 'Only reason I am not on the PGA Tour is because I didn't play well. If I go out and play well I will be on the PGA Tour. So I am the only one that can go and get it done.'
Heinen got it done Thursday at the TPC at Deere Run, making nine birdies and one bogey. He hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation, but needed only 26 putts.
'I just gave myself a lot of opportunities. I had a lot of 10-, 12-footers, too, and probably made most of them,' he said.
Gossett is trying to become the first player since David Frost, in 1993, to successfully defend his title. The 23-year-old, who has but one top-10 finish on tour this season, made six birdies and no bogeys in round one.
Tweleve players are three shots back, at 5-under, including last week's winner, Spike McRoy. Duffy Waldorf is also among those who opened in 67.
Waldorf is on the rebound from an exhausting appearance at last weeks Open Championship, where he tied for 18th. He posted three sub-par rounds at Muirfield, but will most remember the week for his third-round 77, when he shot 9s of 45 and 32.
Full-field scores from the John Deere Classic
Full coverage of the John Deere Classic
Tour still focused on security after death of suspected Austin bomber
AUSTIN, Texas – Although the suspect in the wave of Austin-area bombings was killed early Wednesday, the PGA Tour plans to continue heightened security measures at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.
According to various news outlets, Mark Anthony Conditt has been identified as the bombings suspect, and he was killed by an explosion inside his car in Round Rock, Texas, which is 19 miles north of Austin Country Club.
“We do not comment on the specifics of our security measures, but we are continuing to work in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Austin to ensure the safety of our players and fans at this week’s tournament,” the Tour said in a statement. “Regardless of the recent developments, our heightened security procedures will remain in place through the remainder of the week.”
Authorities believe Conditt is responsible for the five explosions that killed two people and injured five others in Austin or south-central Texas since March 2.
Play began Wednesday at the Match Play.
Monahan addresses alcohol, fan behavior at events
AUSTIN, Texas – Fan behavior has become a hot-button topic on the PGA Tour in recent weeks, with Rory McIlroy suggesting on Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the circuit should “limit alcohol sales on the course.”
The Tour’s policy is to stop selling alcohol an hour before the end of play, which is normally around 5 p.m., and on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play commissioner Jay Monahan said it’s something the Tour is monitoring.
“When you have people who aren’t behaving properly and they’ve had too much alcohol, then I agree [with McIlroy],” Monahan said. “In those incidences those people who are making it uncomfortable for a player alcohol sales should be cut off.”
Fan behavior became an issue with some players when Tiger Woods returned to competition at last month’s Genesis Open. During the final round of the Honda Classic Justin Thomas had a fan removed when he yelled for Thomas’ tee shot at the par-4 16th hole to “get in the bunker.”
Monahan declined to address Thomas’ situation at PGA National specifically, but he did seem to suggest that as interest grows and the Tour continues to attract more mainstream sports crowds, vocal fans will continue to be the norm.
“I believe that there was more that went into it that preceded and in a situation like that we’re hopeful our players will reach out to our security staff and they can handle that,” Monahan said. “[But] yelling, ‘get in the bunker,’ that’s part of what our players have to accept. In any sport, you go to an away game, in any other sport, and people aren’t rooting for you. Sometimes out here you’re going to have fans that aren’t rooting for you, but they can’t interfere with what you’re trying to do competitively.”
Senden playing first event since son's brain tumor
John Senden is back inside the ropes for the first time in nearly a year at this week's Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Web.com Tour.
Senden took a leave of absence from professional golf in April, when his teenage son, Jacob, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He didn't touch a club for nearly four months as Jacob endured six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, a gauntlet that stretched from April until mid-November.
But Senden told PGATour.com that his son's tumor has shrunk from the size of a thumbnail to the size of a pinky nail, and after a promising MRI in January he decided to plan his comeback.
"I haven't really played in 12 months, but in that time Jacob has really, really hung tough," Senden said. "His whole body was getting slammed with all these treatments, and he was so strong in his whole attitude and his whole body. Just really getting through the whole thing. He was tough."
Senden was granted a family crisis exemption by the Tour, and he'll have 13 starts to earn 310 FedExCup points to retain his playing privileges for the 2018-19 season. He is allowed five Web.com "rehabilitation" starts as part of the exemption, but will reportedly only make one this week before returning to the PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage, followed by starts in San Antonio, Charlotte and Dallas.
Senden, 46, has won twice on Tour, most recently the 2014 Valspar Championship.
Added videos shed light on Reed rules controversy
Additional fan videos shed some light on a rules controversy involving Patrick Reed during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, when Reed suggested that Jordan Spieth would have gotten free relief after he was denied a favorable ruling.
Reed had sailed the green with his approach on the 11th hole Sunday at Bay Hill, coming to rest under a palm tree. As the below thread of videos from fan Tyler Soughers illustrates, Reed wanted a free drop because he believed a nearby television tower was in the way of the shot he planned to play.
The initial rules official didn't "see" the shot Reed planned to attempt given the tight confines, and his decision to deny Reed a free drop was upheld by a second rules official. Reed eventually tried to play the ball, moving it a few feet, before being granted relief from the tower from the ball's new position. He ultimately made double bogey on the hole and tied for seventh.
After finally taking his free drop away from the tower, Reed was heard muttering to nearby fans, "What a crock of s---."
Reed and Spieth will have plenty of time to discuss their favorite rulings Friday, when the two players face off on the final day of round-robin play in Group 4 during the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin.